Redskins' no-huddle a passing fancy Shows running game needs a jump start

December 03, 1991|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Sun Staff Correspondent

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- If coach Joe Gibbs of the Washington Redskins wants to keep using the no-huddle offense the rest of the season, the wide receivers will second the idea.

"Any wide receiver likes the no-huddle, because you're passing the majority of the time," Gary Clark said after the Redskins won the NFC East title Sunday with a 27-6 victory over the Los Angeles Rams.

Even though the Redskins broke open the game by using the no-huddle offense on a third-period touchdown drive, don't look for it to become a regular part of their offense.

"I don't think we'd be big on it, but it might be something we'd use from time to time when we're not going well," Gibbs said.

What Gibbs' use of the no-huddle really showed was that the Redskins still don't have their running game working.

When Gibbs went to it with 6 minutes, 47 seconds left in the third period and the Redskins leading, 14-6, they had rushed for 39 yards on 14 carries.

Earnest Byner had 21 yards in nine carries, Ricky Ervins 18 yards in four carries and Gerald Riggs had been stopped for no gain on a third-down plunge.

After getting only 34 yards rushing in the first half, Gibbs tried running on the first two plays of the first two second-half drives. Byner got 4 yards in the first two carries and Ervins 1 in the second two.

"We've got problems," Gibbs said. "I'm upset with it [running game]. We've got to try to get things ironed out before it costs us another ballgame."

On the no-huddle drive, Byner got 14 yards in two carries and the Redskins were then able to pad their running statistics in the final quarter once they'd gone ahead, 21-6.

They wound up getting 84 yards in 27 carries, a slight improvement over the first half, but not a good day for the Redskins.

Now that the Redskins have clinched their division title and home-field advantage in their first playoff game, they can achieve their final goal of home-field advantage throughout the playoffs by beating the Phoenix Cardinals (4-9) Sunday.

They then wouldn't have much to accomplish in their final two games against the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles, except polishing the running game.

"Once you get that [home-field edge], we've done everything in 16 games we can do, and then we play whatever is left for pride. Sometimes, those can be the biggest games you need to see what you've got," Gibbs said.

Gibbs will want to see if he still has a solid running game to bring into the playoffs. Gibbs tried to win with the pass at the outset of last season, when the Redskins started out with a three-wide-receiver offense. He scrapped it after the team got off to a slow start and went back to the power running game built around Byner during the late-season playoff push.

But Byner hasn't been effective since he hurt his knee against the Atlanta Falcons three weeks ago.

Merlin Olsen, the CBS-TV commentator, even said Sunday that Byner looks as if he's not as quick as he used to be.

"I wouldn't agree with that," Gibbs said.

Byner also said he's fine.

"It's just a matter of everybody staying with it," Byner said. "We've just got to continue to work with the running game. I'm ready to go out of the gate."

They need the running game, because the Redskins aren't the type of team that can dominate with one phase of their game.

As coach John Robinson of the Rams said: "I think they play the total game well. I don't look out there and see some awesome, unbelieveable speed or something like that, but they're good at everything. I think that's the thing that sticks out in my mind. They're good to very good in just about every phase of the game."

Right now, the running game is the exception.

NOTES: Gibbs made it obvious he still regrets that the Redskins lost their bid for a perfect season. "We got everything with the exception of a dream in there," Gibbs said. "We got everything else we wanted." The "dream" was what Gibbs called the bid for a perfect season. . . . Special teams coach Wayne Sevier wants to improve the team's field-goal kicking. Chip Lohmiller, who's been bothered with a bad back and some bad snaps, has made 4 of his past 9 attempts. "If we're going to be a great team, that's got to improve," Gibbs said.

Running down?

Earnest Byner's rushing statistics have tailed off in recent weeks:

, Opp. . . . . . Carries-Yards

Detroit . . . . . 16-83

Dallas. . . . . . 22-101

Phoenix . . . . . 23-109

Cincinnati. . . . 18-75

Philadelphia. . . 29-95

Chicago . . . . . 21-63

Cleveland . . . . 12-65

N.Y. Giants . . . 10-11

Houston . . . . . 21-112

Atlanta . . . . . 12-33

Pittsburgh. . . . 9-5

Dallas. . . . . . 8-22

L.A. Rams . . . . 19-62

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